You sent for me, sir?
Yes, Clarence. A man down on earth needs our help.
Splendid! Is he sick?
No. Worse. He’s discouraged.
In the days following the loss of our baby, we tried to get back to normal, but often it felt like we were moving through jello, stuck and suffocated. Joe went back to graduate school, and I tried to get back to my routine, but we felt so discouraged. I wished I could run away from myself because it hurt to be inside my own skin. I found a verse in Psalm 6 that seemed to describe my daily life:
I am weary with my sighing;
Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.
How fortunate for us that God in His wisdom included the bent over sorrow of many of His saints in the Bible. Sometimes I think we are afraid of all that sorrow, and prefer instead to camp out in the joyful texts. But ask folks who are suffering where they often find comfort, and they will tell you… the Psalms. There you find King David, who experienced such intimacy with God, but also such great sorrow. He knew how to describe his sorrow in a way that spoke to me like no one else. I too had my own personal waterbed, created by my own tears. And I was not even a big, strong king, like David.
Years later, when I was homeschooling my three children, I used that verse one day when we were learning about literary devices. I had the kids each draw a picture of the verse, and smiled that it still meant a lot to me but it did not describe my life anymore. They found the verse to be funny and silly, and seemed to enjoy drawing their swimming beds with the crying stick figures on top.
I found those drawings last month, while cleaning out some old papers. I sat alone in the hot, dark quiet under the eaves, and kissed each of those pictures. Sometimes I cannot speak audibly to God; I get so overwhelmed with the poignancy of the moment. I remember whispering softly as I kissed those time-worn and tattered drawings …thank you…thank you…thank you…while smiling and holding them close.
Yes, when your bed is swimming in your tears, it is often difficult to see past your own pain. I recall Joe’s sister Marianne relaying an incident that happened shortly after their mother passed away. She was walking to Bell’s in Five Points, and she saw a woman drinking a diet coke. For some reason, that really bothered her; no one should be enjoying a soda, diet or not, when one’s mother had just passed away! Who did that woman think she was, drinking a diet coke in public, like it was a regular, normal day?! Geessh…the insensitivity of some people!
Before we lost the baby, I would not have understood that story, because I had not experienced a painful loss. But when Marianne shared it with us, I knew where she was going with it; she did not need to explain any of it to me. Others looked puzzled, as if to say, what does a diet coke have to do with losing Mama?
So while my bed was swimming as the rest of the world continued to drink their diet cokes, I came back to my philosophical questions that had been put on hold since the bad phone call. I knew the answer to my own healing would come from God. I felt I had reached a crossroads where I would put all my anger and doubts on the table and let God sort them out for me. From the little I knew of Him, He could handle whatever I would bring. I spent a lot of time reading the Bible and focused on only one aspect of God, His goodness. If I could once again believe in the goodness of God, I felt that the rest of the pieces of my messy grief would find some resolution. And over time, I found the goodness that I was looking for, and began to think about that one aspect of God every day. In addition to the Bible, I read A. W. Tozer’s, The Knowledge of the Holy, and in particular, Chapter 16, The Goodness of God. Here is an excerpt:
That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and must be received as an article of faith as impregnable as the throne of God. It is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God and is necessary to moral sanity. To allow that God could be other than good is to deny the validity of all thought and end ill the negation of every moral judgment. If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven can be hell and hell, heaven.
I took it a bit further; if God was not good, what did it matter if He was omnipotent, omniscient, or omni-anything? And if He was good, what I did I have to worry about?
So there I camped for several months, reading, praying, stumbling around, and floating in my waterbed. I gradually became convinced of the goodness of God, which was a watershed experience for me. Since that painful chapter of my life, I have experienced the usual mix of good, bad, and ugly days, but I have kept the goodness of God with me always. And gradually I caught myself joining the carefree diet coke drinkers for a brief moment or two, as I came back to life.
This verse, from Psalm 27, was my favorite one during my sad days. I used a different version in an earlier post, but here it is again:
I remain confident of this;
I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.